The James-Lorah Memorial Home was the home for 85 years of Miss Sarah Maria James, a charter member of the Village Improvement Association when it was founded in 1895. Upon her death in 1954, Miss James bequeathed to the VIA the 17-room residence, its contents and a trust fund for maintenance.
This property was owned by only three families. The first owner, Zerich Titus, had a house and a saddlery here from 1806-1813.
In 1813 Titus sold the property, located across the street from the courthouse, to Abraham Chapman who used it as his family home and for his growing law practice. Henry Chapman, Abraham’s son, followed his father into the practice of law. When Henry married in 1834, Abraham gave the couple this property as a wedding gift. Henry enlarged the original saddlery shop for use as his law office. In 1844, Henry Chapman, by then a judge and widowed for seven years, built for his future bride “the finest house in the borough”, joining it to the law office. It is the 17-room, three-story, post-Federal-style home you see today. A grandson, the noted Henry Chapman Mercer, was born in one of the bedrooms.
The third owner of this property was Dr. Oliver P. James who bought it in 1869 to be his family home and an office for his medical practice. He resided here with his wife, Sara Gordon James, son Oliver, and two daughters, Martha and Sarah. Martha married the Reverend Dr. George H. Lorah, a Methodist minister, in 1896. Following the deaths of Dr. and Mrs. James and Oliver, it became the summer home of Sarah James and the Lorahs, who spent winters at the church parsonage in Philadelphia. In later years, Miss James lived at the Bucks County Inn but continued to maintain the family home.
The bequest of Miss James established this home as the center of VIA activity. In her will, Miss James requested that her home be named the James-Lorah Memorial Home. As membership in the Village Improvement Association grew and projects required expanded facilities, an auditorium complex was added and dedicated in 1964.
The James-Lorah Memorial Home holds the history of the Village Improvement Association by being the caretaker of its minutes dating from 1895. Reading through these minutes, one truly understands the hard work and determination of those early VIA members as they addressed the health and welfare needs of the citizens of Doylestown.
Each room of the James-Lorah Memorial Home is a treasure. From ornate chandeliers to an elegant parlor, the Victorian furnishings transport one back in time.
Among rooms to be visited are the Music Room with its elaborately carved, square piano, the newly opened Dollhouse Room, and the Master Bedroom with adjoining Morning Room. Soon to be opened is the Collection Room which will house our library of books dating back to the 1800s. Subjects include medicine, law, religion, and fiction, as well as personal books belonging to the James and Lorah families. In this room will be displayed some of the medical instruments that were used by Dr. James.
The James-Lorah Memorial Home is a cherished house-museum commemorating the families who have occupied it. Today it continues to contribute to the ongoing life of the community and the VIA. It has been listed since 1972 on the National Register of Historic Places.
Tours of this home may be arranged from Monday through Saturday by calling 215-348-2187.